Things rolled up in roti have become awfully fashionable. I could be surly and claim not to ascribe to such trendy stuff, but as far as I’m concerned, I’d demolish just about anything wrapped in roti. My friend Giapo wraps icecream in the stuff and, rather like everything that he does, it’s a revelation (if you’re ever in Auckland by the way, visit his icecream store, even if you do nothing else – you’ll thank me for it). Anyway, I digress.
My penchant for roti dates back to university days when a certain architect friend introduced me to what is still the best roti I’ve ever eaten, in a wee haunt near the design school. We grew happily, quite festively plump on the stuff. I dream of it still. So adding other treats is a more natural progression for me. Like most of what I make, this is a guideline. Grilled prawns in a similar mixture is very good.
So is a good hunk of lamb, beef or pork. You may want to get hold of some Chinese barbecued pork and use that instead. As always, use your instinct.
By all means, getting hold of some frozen roti or paratha bread is perfectly acceptable and I won’t judge you at all for doing so. There are plenty of excellent brands in Indian supermarkets – just brush in a little butter and fry as you would with the ones below.
Oh, and get a julienne peeler if you don’t already have one. It’s right up there in my pantheon of culinary kit.
Prep time: 25 mins Cook time: 10 mins Serves: 4, generously
Roti (see recipe, right)
6 chicken thighs, deboned
2 tbsp soy sauce
4 tbsp satay sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp mirin or similar
2 large carrots, julienned
Several large handfuls of bean sprouts Handful of coriander, roughly chopped
2 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
Sort the roti first, and keep warm while you do the other stuff.
Combine the chicken thighs with the soy sauce, zest and juice from one lime, and half the satay sauce. Leave to marinade if you have time, otherwise, get a hot grill (barbecue, ideally), or pan going.
Quickly grill the chicken on both sides until well-caramelised, cooked through, and a bit crispy. Leave to rest for several minutes while you put together everything else.
Combine the juice and zest from the second lime with the sesame oil and mirin. Toss together the julienned carrot, bean sprouts, chopped coriander and sesame seeds, and dress with the lime mixture.
Slice the chicken and arrange on a large platter with the roti, dressed salad and remaining satay sauce. Serve immediately, running a smear of satay on each roti, adding a bit of salad and a few bits of chicken down the middle before rolling up and devouring.
Roti isn’t much of a jump from just about every other variety of flatbread in the world – but of course with about as much butter as there is dough. Its variations are vast. Be generous with the butter – it will make the eating of it so much more gratifying. I will not hear anything against this; while
I wouldn’t recommend eating roti for every meal, nor would I cheesecake, so there.
Make sure you use good flour – none of that bleached muck – it will make all the difference.
Prep time: 30 mins Cook time: 20 mins Serves: 4-6
2 cups good flour
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp melted butter
A little more butter, for frying A little more flour
Combine the flour and salt. Whisk in the melted butter to create a crumbly mixture, then mix in enough water to create a smooth, elastic dough.
Divide into six or 12 equal-sized balls, depending on how big you want the roti. Roll each one out into a circle as thinly as you can be bothered, then brush with butter, roll up, coil up, and then flatten and roll out into another reasonably thin round. Repeat until you are done. Brush each roti on both sides with butter and dust in a minute amount of flour.
Heat a heavy frying pan to a fairly high temperature. Add a scant amount of butter, just enough to grease the pan, then fry each roti on both sides until crisp and nicely golden brown.
I may not have inherited my parents’ green fingers, but at least there’s mint. It can be relied on to thrive under my neglect.
As long as I don’t try to control it or pamper it in any way, it continues to turn out downy, palm-sized leaves, especially at this time of year. Of course, there are many varieties of mint. Two have gone bananas in my garden: Vietnamese mint, and spearmint. Here I’m referring to spearmint, which looks a lot like peppermint but has a much milder, sweeter taste with a fraction of the menthol content.
I’m not a fan of mint sauce (how unpatriotic) so I find other ways to make a small dent in the bounty. Undoubtedly the thing I do most often is pluck a handfuls of leaves, checking them for caterpillars and cat hairs (our cat likes to nap in beds of mint, thyme or jasmine) and sacrifice them under just-off-the-boil water. I haven’t yet made it to Morocco, but the smell of mint tea always takes me back to the steep streets of Granada, where my husband’s Arabic went much further than my rudimentary Spanish. Cold winter days were spent traipsing around the hauntingly beautiful Alhambra, its ghosts following us down the steep hill in a whirl of rusty leaves until we’d hike up a rickety staircase into the refuge of a kilim-strewn, lamp-lit Moroccan tea house, the first sip of mint tea bringing with it a sense of balance and calm.
Continuing on a Mediterranean trail, chopped mint releases a burst of freshness into yoghurt sauce, tabbouleh and lamb koftas. And when watermelon season finally settles in, my mint is on high rotate making one of my favourite salads: cubes of flesh-red watermelon with crumbled feta, thinly sliced red onion and chopped mint, dressed simply in lemon juice and olive oil with a little black pepper and sea salt.
Peppermint, with its stronger flavour, is better for baking with, but spearmint is still a worthy addition: I’m a big fan of Jordan Rondel’s Fresh Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies, and homemade icecream spiked with fresh mint and shards of dark chocolate is a simple, classy dessert to serve guests.
Of course it’s essential in mojitos, but it’s highly irritating that lime season hits when the mint in my garden is rather scrappy. Right now I’m thankful for the time I took to freeze litres of lime juice a few months ago.
When my lemon tree is adorned in kilos of gold, however, the mint is begging to be picked. I make a sugar syrup infused with mint leaves then blend it with plenty of ice and lemon juice. Strain the frothy mixture into tall glasses for the perfect post-gardening (I do try, I’m just not a natural) refresher.